The first of our original videos is an animated version of a piano note chart. As the letter names appear on the chart, the notes are played on the piano. Towards the end of the video (after 2:12), the full chart will stay visible for several seconds. Pause the screen at this point if you would like to study the chart.
Here is the percussion section. The ‘Percussion’ video includes a variety of instruments: vibraphone (at the beginning), xylophone (2:28), marimba (3:32), glockenspiel (4:53), drums, cymbals etc. (from 5:54). The timpani (or kettledrums) are covered in a separate video.
Not sure what a celeste (or celesta) is? You will almost certainly have heard this instrument in the Harry Potter movie soundtracks, as well as in Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Finally, there are also some videos about instruments which are rarely found in an orchestra, such as the banjo.
Whatever instrument(s) you play, it’s always useful (and fascinating) to know as much as you can about other instruments. If you play the piano, thinking about the sounds of orchestral instruments can sometimes be very helpful. For example, if you have a very smooth (legato) melody in the right hand, imagine it being played by a clarinet. Or, for a detached (staccato) left hand passage, think about how it might sound on a bassoon.
The UK’s Philharmonia Orchestra has produced a series of videos to help people learn about instruments. The players talk about and demonstrate their instruments, and explain how they interact with the rest of the orchestra. A few technical terms are used, but don’t worry if you don’t understand them all. The musical demonstrations will usually make it clear what the players are talking about. Some of the videos may seem a bit long, but you may well find yourself watching many of them all the way through.
The videos will be grouped into orchestral sections, starting with Strings and Harp (and The Conductor), coming up in the next post.